by Simon Daish
World-ranked 33rd in the ITTF Youth Rankings, Croatia’s Hana Arapovic was one such player to suffer early elimination in the Under-19 Girls’ Singles event after falling short in two of her three group encounters.
Earning a 3-0 victory over Portugal’s Ines Matos (11-8, 11-9, 11-7), but earlier setbacks against Egypt’s Hana Goda (7-11, 11-5, 11-8, 11-8) and Romania’s Luciana Mitrofan (11-6, 11-7, 9-11, 4-11, 11-7), ranked 29th and 86th respectively, proved costly for Arapovic who was finally forced to settle for third place in the group.
Germany’s Annett Kaufmann, 78th, exceeded expectations by winning all three of her group fixtures, including a crushing display against the highest-ranked group rival, Ozge Yilmaz of Turkey (11-4, 11-6, 11-8), world-ranked 17th.
“I am very happy and proud of myself. For tomorrow, I will be a bit nervous, but I think I must be confident and try not to worry about the result because it is a strong tournament. I just know that I will give my best.” Annett Kaufmann.
The shock departures weren’t just limited to the Under-19 category with high-profile names also falling in the Under-15 Girls’ Singles.
Dominika Wiltschkova, world-ranked 11th, was one of the star names to exit at the first hurdle following disappointing results in a difficult group. The Slovakian was unfortunate to meet two in-form opponents, losing out to Germany’s Josephina Neumann (3-11, 12-10, 11-6, 11-9) and France’s Leana Hochart (11-8, 11-6,7-11, 9-11, 12-10), who struck Under-13 glory in Vila Real and Havirov respectively and now find themselves in the knock-out picture in Otocec.
Group 7 also turned heads as Portugal’s Matilde Pinto, world number 19, bid farewell with her fourth-place finish. Leaving herself with plenty to do after a surprise 3-0 defeat to Turkey’s Busra Demir (11-6, 11-7, 13-11), Pinto restored hope soon after with a narrow victory over Germany’s Jele Stortz (7-11, 12-10, 6-11, 12-10, 11-9). However, her campaign was eventually stopped by Russia’s Eseniia Shirokova, ranked 155th in the Youth Rankings, who toppled the Portuguese hopeful in a dramatic contest (7-11, 12-10, 5-11, 14-12, 12-10).
Not the outcome Pinto had been hoping for on the singles front, but she enjoyed better luck in the Under-15 Girls’ Doubles. Pinto partnered with Welsh competitor Anna Hursey once again with the two having emerged the successful pair last month in Tunis, and they demonstrated great character on day one in Otocec. Fighting from behind twice, Pinto and Hursey saw off Romania’s Bianca Mei Rosu and Cristina Singeorzan (16-18, 11-3, 5-11, 12-10, 11-8) to earn a spot in the semi-finals.
Ece Harac and Ozge Yilmaz also contested a five-game affair in the Under-19 Girls’ Doubles, surviving a nervy conclusion to their quarter-final match. Romania’s Elena Zaharia and Sweden’s Rebecca Muskantor lodged an impressive recovery to force a deciding fifth game, but Harac and Yilmaz stood firm in the face of pressure to extend their stay (11-9, 11-5, 8-11, 8-11, 11-6).
Wednesday’s fixture line-up features 36 exciting encounters, including four title deciders on what promises to be an unmissable finale to the Girls’ programme in Otocec!
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